It’s Official – Fern Lee, Hall of Fame Direct Response Class of 2018

in Fern Lee by on January 2nd, 2018No Comments
Congratulations, Fern Lee, CEO, THOR Associates  – it’s official, you are a legend! We are humbled and grateful for the industry acknowledgement.

Seven More Legends to Join DR Hall of Fame on April 26

Hall of Fame

Guilty – Confessions of a TV Binger….

in Fern Lee by on October 11th, 2017No Comments

Binge Watching Impacting Live TV Stats

11 Oct, 2017
By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – Fewer people are watching live TV, favoring instead to binge watch TV episodes, says a new report from Nielsen and reported in the Los Angeles Times.

Viewers 18 to 49 who watched prime-time television during premiere week this fall fell to 25.5 percent – down 8 percent from a year ago.

And the combined audience for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW for the week of Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 was down 11 percent from a year ago, continuing the long-term trend of viewers shifting away from TV live.

Analysts say the drop is a result of more viewers watching their favorite shows through DVR playback, video-on-demand (VOD) services, and streaming platforms.

Nearly three-quarters – 73 percent – of Americans said they binge watched programs, according to a survey by Deloitte, including 90 percent of U.S millennials. Some 38 percent of those millennials also said they binge watched every week.

Insiders say it’s a continuation of a trend from last season, and that the number of people using television in prime time has declined steadily during the past five years with the emergence of streaming video, especially among viewers under 35.

Streaming data for network shows are not included in Nielsen’s totals, but the audience measurement company is moving toward providing data that does incorporate it.

Many network programs gain viewership when delayed viewing on DVR playback and VOD services are included in the ratings totals. A majority of deals with advertisers are based on how many people watched the commercials in the shows within three or seven days of their initial airing. Networks are also selling more commercials on their online viewing platforms for their programs.

Even with the drop in traditional TV viewing, network executives note that they are still reaching large audiences through time shifting and generating more revenue from digital platforms.

Despite ratings declines last season, the five major English-speaking broadcast networks sold $9.1 billion in advertising for the 2017-18 season, a 4.1-percent increase over the previous year, according to the research firm Media Dynamics.

And overall, live-TV results are still high: an average of four hours, 21 minutes of live TV programming per day for all TV viewers versus 34 minutes from DVR time-shifted viewing, according to first-quarter Nielsen results.

The Four Agreements

in Fern Lee by on October 3rd, 2017No Comments


The Four Agreements of E-Commerce
By: Lori Zeller, Managing Partner – THOR Associates
Reprint from September Electronic Retailer

Those who have read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz know that the principles expressed—be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best—are advice for a life well-lived. In marketing, however, we don’t have the benefit of such a succinct philosophy.

Marketers are challenged with what seems to be continuous change. How can we grasp the unpredictable nature of the consumer’s journey as he or she buys via e-commerce? The struggle lies in defining marketing technology and integrating the data captured. Along with this is the need to interpret the information in real time and make decisions for retargeting or remarketing that result in increased revenue.

According to KPMG, there are four stages to the consumer journey in an e-commerce purchase decision: awareness, consideration, conversion, and evaluation. At THOR, we have our own “four agreements” of branding: an excellent consumer journey that builds brand loyalty, measuring impact/attribution, segmentation and retargeting, and building a funnel for purchase.

In order to capitalize upon online shopping trends, marketers need to recognize that e-commerce sites are the most valuable tool to educate, sell, and generate revenue. Although e-commerce is constantly changing, there are requirements for building web-driven sales. Critical are a smooth checkout process and trust; also important are site optimization, good navigation, and search options. Ongoing needs include customer service and reputation management—and free shipping never hurts.
According to ChannelAdvisor, mobile is now growing three times as fast as other e-commerce channels, and 59 percent of e-commerce buyers use mobile for research and purchase, representing 38 percent of revenues. In the online funnel, whether desktop, mobile, or cross-device, the consumer follows his or her own path, requiring marketing teams to decipher where the consumer looked, where they bought, and what they did following purchase.

If only it was as easy as The Four Agreements. Perhaps the answer lies in the marriage of the journey’s stages to the four branding necessities listed above. In every awareness moment, there is an opportunity for brand-building. When a consumer reaches consideration, marketing teams must be able to attribute. Conversion only happens with the proper segmentation, and retargeting captures missed revenue. And, finally, evaluation allows marketers to improve, test, and deliver clear patterns in the path to purchase.

By mastering this road map, marketers can “own” the consumer journey and mitigate the disruption that all forms of online shopping are bringing to commerce.

Purchasing Power: YouTube? You Betcha

in Fern Lee by on May 22nd, 2017Comments Off on Purchasing Power: YouTube? You Betcha

Borrowed from “THINK with GOOGLE”:

The Latest YouTube Stats on When, Where, and What People Watch

When it comes to the latest trends on how people are watching YouTube videos—when, where, and even what—there are plenty of misconceptions. Here we break down the latest stats on YouTube watch behavior and bust some common myths.

Myth: When people watch YouTube on their mobile devices, it’s during the day and “on the go”

Reality: The majority of watch time on YouTube is mobile, yet many marketers still believe mobile viewing translates to short, daytime, on-the-go sessions. In fact, when it comes to YouTube viewing behavior, mobile is a lot like TV: The world watches at home, during prime time, and on horizontally oriented screens.

I Want To Do image

On mobile alone, in an average week, YouTube reaches more adults 18+ during prime time than any cable network does

Apr. 2016 Nielsen
Apps image


adults report watching YouTube at home on their mobile devices

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect
Video image


people default to horizontal viewing when watching videos on their phones

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect
Consumer Trends image

YouTube mobile users are 2X as likely to pay close attention while watching YouTube compared to TV users while watching TV

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect

Myth: YouTube is only for watching viral videos

Reality: People get lost spending time on YouTube for a lot of reasons. Whether they want to learn, laugh, catch up on pop culture, jam out to their favorite music, or lean back for a show, people can find whatever they’re looking for on YouTube.

Apps image

Almost 4X as many people prefer watching video on YouTube as on social platforms that are less video-centric

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect
Video image

The top two reasons viewers watch YouTube are “to relax” and “to feel entertained”

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect
I Want To Know image

The top four content categories watched by YouTube users are comedy, music, entertainment/pop culture, and “how to”

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Connect

68of YouTube users watched YouTube to help make a purchase decision

Jul. 2016 Google/Ipsos Conn

DRMA reprint: Trumps First 75 days – Performance Based Marketing Thoughts

in Fern Lee by on April 11th, 2017No Comments

The Signs From Trump’s First 75 — What Should Performance-Based Marketers Know
11 Apr, 2017
By: Thomas Haire

For its contribution to this month’s DRMA Voice, the DRMA Education Committee decided to tackle the issues performance-based marketers are facing after President Donald Trump’s first 75 days in office – and what those issues could look like in the coming years.

Rather than having a single person write a column, however, three brave souls — Imagine Fulfillment Services’ Andy Arvidson, industry creative guru Rick Petry, and THOR Associates’ Lori Zeller — raised their hands to share their opinions on the questions I posed. Read on for more.

How are the Trump Administration’s proposed — or expected — changes to the regulatory landscape affecting the key government agencies involved in the performance-based marketing space, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

Andy Arvidson: Many feel the Trump Administration has the most pro-business policies in decades. Trump wants to remove “barriers” from doing business and this thinking will be passed down through the FTC, FCC, and FDA. This will help marketers. It seems like Trump will be able to make these changes since the Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches of the government.

Rick Petry: Trump has spoken in broad terms about streamlining government oversight and deregulation, but it remains to be seen how that will affect business. When you examine his own advertising claims – take the controversial Trump University as one example – it would seem that there would be less scrutiny if his own reliance on sales puffery were to be any indication.

Lori Zeller: Changes to the governing bodies will provide disruption, as well as chaos. The concern with a “Republican” presidency and Republican leadership in the Senate and/or Congress is the non-governance and hands-off approach to issues. For example, privacy checks and balances that were implemented under President Obama have been negated with Trump. Interesting to note is the choice to head the FDA choice – Scott Gottleib – a candidate who has strong ties to pharma, biotech, and healthcare companies.

The bottom line is that the collusion and interest of the corporation – not the citizen – will affect emotional performance. Although the aftermath of all three agencies being advocates for multi-national corporations may lead regulation down one path, let us not forget that in performance-based marketing, the consumer looking to “feel good” amidst all this change often transacts with impulse buys. Historically, that’s been great for our business.

What do you believe staffing shakeups and directional changes at the FTC and FCC could mean for crucial marketer/consumer issues like net neutrality, data security, consumer privacy and more?

Arvidson: The Trump Administration wants the FTC, FCC, and FDA to be more innovative and pro-business and will systematically unravel complex regulations and policies enacted during eight years of the Obama Administration.

Petry: It’s a kind of reboot, where new players will be shaping or redirecting policy in alignment with a more business-friendly, less regulatory-heavy guise. However, issues such as data security and consumer privacy – which are controversial and occupy the news on a daily basis – would likely be more apt to be “bipartisan issues,” if that hasn’t become an utter oxymoronic term at this point.

Zeller: The FTC and FCC administrative shakeups will change the landscape of how the consumer is protected or – better said – not protected. The Trump changes are bound to create leverage for big business to dictate its terms, and the fallout will have grave consequences to net neutrality, data security, and consumer privacy. There are no words to describe the far-reaching issues that will arise and no silver lining for the consumer or performance-based marketers. As a result, strategic marketing plans will need to be aligned with huge budgets behind them if brands are to have revenue. Increased budgets are good for our business. However, it will take time for this correction to evolve. Performance-based marketers that can navigate with success will be the winners of advertising, media, and transactional campaigns.

How might the Trump border wall and immigration policy plans affect the performance-based marketing business most directly?

Arvidson: Performance-based marketing companies must employ legal citizens with proper documentation otherwise risk losing part of their labor force with deportation via the new policies. Now is the time for employers to be buttoned up and adhere to all city, state, and federal government hiring practices.

Importantly, illegal immigrants with criminal convictions need to be returned to Mexico. The opportunity for better jobs in the United States will offset the greater barriers to entry with a wall to getting into the United States. Illegals and smugglers of all types will go under, through, and over the wall.

Petry: Trump’s immigration policies could have a detrimental impact across the gamut of the labor force. On the digital side of the business, availability of engineers and programmers from the global talent pool could be hindered. At the other end of the spectrum, supply-chain companies – such as telemarketers or fulfillment that rely on low-skilled workers – could be similarly affected. Both ends of this equation are microcosms of how “immigrant worker” isn’t a single thing – nor does it fit a convenient stereotype.

Zeller: Immigration policy plans and the border wall have a huge impact on performance-based marketing businesses for many reasons. The wall represents a discord with our neighbors to the south, which puts a damper on call centers, media, and the import of products that contribute to fair trade. Regardless if an actual wall is built, the idea of being able to change the policies will have far-reaching impact for business and private citizens. The idea of “search” can be used as an example – if citizens have no privacy and search records on phones and computers will be widely available, the $64,000 question is: will businesses see the same crackdown and suffer, or will consumers bear the brunt of change and while businesses have an easier, more open opportunity for growth?

On the other hand, the proposed changes in immigration policy will take the opportunity of creative contribution and intelligent acumen away from performance-based marketing and branding. No longer will any business be able to access the brain trust of our foreign strategic partners. Immigration policy change will create a sordid emotional rift as families are separated, words are examined, and the free flow of freedom is curtailed. As a result, American strength outside of the United States will weaken, harming all business.

How might the Trump Administration’s signals of a newly protectionist import/export policy — including a possible border adjustment tax (BAT) — affect performance-based marketers?

Arvidson: The BAT is a 20-percent sales tax that will pressure performance-based marketers to increase pricing to consumers. Products sold online and at retail stores – such as apparel, footwear, and wearables – will become much more expensive and the American consumer will take a direct hit. This could cause a few more major retailers to close operations. A price hike is the last thing retailers need right now.

According to the, “the 20-percent sales tax on essential goods will result in the average family paying $1,700 more per year on items bought every week.”

For many marketers, the import tax will affect the entire supply chain. Some manufacturers will be forced to change certain supplier relationships to keep costs down.

Petry: A protectionist trade policy could be a dire threat to the As Seen On TV category of performance-based marketing. The reason is that the required margins of a four or five times mark-up of cost to manufacture relative to retail price is already challenging. So, for example, if an item is $19.95, the cost to manufacture it has to be $4 or $5. Domestic labor costs would cause those numbers to inflate significantly, which will result in higher retail prices that will likely be untenable to many consumers.

Zeller: Is the glass half empty or half full? While many business owners find this a disruption, there are the same number of opinions that businesses are overpaying, and that new policies and adjustment taxes will help all businesses, including ours. Modeling to adjust to these policies will be the key to growth, but make no mistake that the operational support of high-level decisions will take a toll if efficiencies are not planned properly.

The end result will be the tradeoff of tax deductions for corporations and how that will affect the ultimate pricing for the consumer. Exporters’ profits would be exempt, and the change would remove existing tax deductions for what importers purchase from foreign countries. For our industry, this may create overnight effects because of international contributions to the manufacturing of products sold direct-to-consumer, as well as industry marketers having sales overseas. Competition can’t be ignored, however, and American products may benefit if the policies are implemented.

This is the first time a president has had an existing and operating marketing brand. That opens up the Trump Administration to allegations of conflicts of interest. How do you see it: is it the Trump Organization’s greatest opportunity for product placement ever, or is it a possible mess that could lead to troubling entanglements?

Arvidson: This could lead to many troubling issues. Trump has interests in more than 500 companies. It is impossible for Trump to separate decisions from the buildings, golf courses, hotels, and restaurants he owns, even if managed by a blind trust. The Democrats and even some Republicans will repeatedly scrutinize the assets of a multi-billionaire who refuses to follow the path of a traditional politician.

Petry: Politicians cashing in on their name is hardly new, but Trump does make for a very bizarre and unprecedented situation given you have a sitting President who has made a fortune from licensing his name. For example, the documentary filmmakers at Vice have shown how the Trump name is being licensed to a project in Dubai where Pakistani workers are allegedly being lured into slave-like labor arrangements by being paid far less wages than they were promised and having their passports confiscated so they cannot leave the country. The average American hasn’t a clue, and a good many might care less. Trump might shrug and say something akin to, “It’s not me. I only lent them my name.” This type of strange brew is a recipe for scandal that threatens to cloud any ability for our leader to be effective.

Zeller: Conflict of interest? Please. This is a brand-building sh*t show. There will be no troubling entanglements because this President will make sure that his interests and financial gains are realized – with the greatest opportunities available to the Trump Organization for not only product placement, but also brand-building engagement.

Fern Lee, RESPONSE Advisory Board Member – Keeping Consumers Safe, Secure, and Satisfied

in Fern Lee by on March 29th, 2017No Comments

Always excited to share thought leadership with the RESPONSE Advisory Board Industry Icons…

E.T. Phone Home! The Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Marketing

in Fern Lee by on March 14th, 2017No Comments

DRMA – Response Magazine REPRINT
‘E.T. Phone Home!’ The Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Marketing
14 Mar, 2017
By: Lori H. Zeller

To prevent serious error and catastrophic leadership missteps, the chief marketing officer (CMO) of the future needs to carefully examine and understand how artificial intelligence (AI) affects the brand arc. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t just about advanced connectivity and cloud-based monitoring of devices. The dichotomy of static vs. dynamic delivery of marketing as we embrace AI and technology will have to include choice and control with what will be “consumer tailoring” for choices that will affect how transactions are made for:

Where, historically, the vision was to identify ROI based on dollars spent against revenue gained, a new model is necessary to transcend collaboration and growth serving consistent messaging in an omnichannel ecosystem that provides collective purchasing decisions.

As a marketer, an important goal is to successfully connect a consumer to a brand – engage them to purchase but also create trust and loyalty. Brand and product awareness is also known as the “a-ha” moment for marketers. While the intersection between technology, impact, and time is known as “change,” the disruptive pitfalls for an engaging consumer journey is challenging.

To provide context, I offer a quote from the movie “E.T.,” where there is a clear “a-ha” moment. The script below gives us that moment where the communication between ET and Elliot is sublime – and Gertie even chimes in. taking credit for teaching the creature to say, “Be good.”

Elliott: E.T., can you say that? Can you say E.T.? E.T.

E.T.: Eeee Teee.

Elliott: [laughs in amazement]

E.T.: [waddling away] E.T.! E.T.! E.T.! Beee good.

Gertie: “Be good!” I taught him that, too!

Elliott: You should give him his dignity. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.

E.T.: [gives Elliot a newspaper and points at a comic picture] Phone.

Elliott: “Phone”? He said, “phone”? He said, “phone”?

Gertie: Can’t you understand English? He said, “phone.”

E.T.: [points to closet] Home?

Elliott: You’re right. That’s E.T.’s home.

E.T.: [scurries over to the window and points his long finger towards it] E.T. home phone.

Gertie: [clarifying] E.T. phone home.

Elliott: E.T. phone home.

[understanding what he means]

Elliott: E.T. phone home!

Gertie: He wants to call somebody.

The idea of teaching an alien to talk, let alone understand words, in 1982 was astounding. Now, in 2017, that concept is clearly not surprising. In fact, the advent of technology during the past 35 years has brought about a mix of integrated options that have changed not only the culture but the pattern of perception and purchasing power in what we now know as the “consumer journey.” Today, in 2017, marketing decision makers must take the following into account:

DVR vs. connected TV/over-the-top (OTT) space
SmartHome devices
Wearable devices
Virtual reality (VR)

There were a reported 8.2 million Amazon Echos sold in 2016, with 24.5 million in predicted sales for Echo and Google Home in 2017. This trend brings to light the fact that television, as we know it, is losing ground to the integrated technological inclusion in activities of daily living. The ability of Alexa to order products is AI at its best. I’m amazed that Accenture is predicting that there will be a 40-percent increase in labor productivity by 2035 as a result of AI. This brings to light the enormity of what will occur in the next 20 years.

From a sales perspective, the advent of AI will require that internal business decisions and algorithms are refined. Serving content based on browser history has become business as usual, digitally speaking. That business is about programmatic delivery. The attribution, however, is providing information that is data rich yet information poor. What needs preparation is how marketing will change with the technology.

By co-joining decisions with operational efficiencies, the new marketing model will be developed by the CMO, chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), and chief operations officer (COO) for revenue increases to occur via micro-moments that will require careful analysis of data. These decisions also will require that the user experience (UX) be altered by logistics, which will include e-commerce initiatives.

The key takeaway from this information is that there is a strong intersection between AI, technology, data proficiency, and the ability to create marketing strategy that provides revenue based on marketing integration. Privacy issues aside, and cross-device delivery assured, the defining decisions made by marketers will be how to make informed business choices based on benchmarks created by algorithms. At the end of the day, data that creates sales based on “served” consumer needs will require decisions in real time – with stellar results that allow for real-time alignment and quick pivots for consumer transactions either online or by a phone.

After all, if “E.T.” was produced today, he would be asking to “SKYPE Home” from his mobile device, while trying to text selfies back to his planet.

Lori H. Zeller is managing partner of New York-based THOR Associates and is a member of the DRMA Education Committee. She can be reached via e-mail at

Lost in Translation

in Fern Lee by on January 31st, 2017No Comments

Thank you Electronic Retailing Magazine for printing the following article written by Lori Zeller, Managing Partner of THOR Associates:

Given the deluge of information consumers face, it is even more important to think culturally when it comes to direct and brand response marketing.

 When attempting to build a brand, you must understand instant gratification, touchpoints, authenticity, credibility, and e-commerce tactics within their cultural settings. There are differences between Hispanic and Anglo consumers, which means that direct and brandresponse marketing must address each individual’s consumer journey.

In Spanish, the paragraph above likely would be written differently toconvey the parallel meaning. “Con diluvio en todos los canales de información con lo que el consumidor una sobrecarga, es importante que pensar ‘cuturally,’ especialmente en lo que respecta marketing de respuesta directa y la marca.”  It is not an easy task to translate words, feelings, or culture in marketing. Examples of English/Spanish translations that have gone wrong includethe wildly successful “Got Milk?” campaign. When used in Mexico, it attracted attention by asking “Are You Lactating?” The Coors beer slogan“Turn It Loose,” when converted directly into Spanish, directs consumers to “Suffer from Diarrhea.” (I think I’ll just have an orange juice, please.)

Parker Pen wanted its advertisements in Mexico to say, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Instead, the company mistook the verb “embarazar” to mean “embarrass,” and the adwound up reading, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

Now that’s something to write home about. Frank Perdue’s line, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” is similarly risqué in Spanish: “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate.” And back in the ’70s, the Braniff International Airways tagline, “Fly in Leather,” translated as“Fly Naked.”

Hispanic consumers in the United States present diversified culturalpatterns. How well the marketer enculturates its content for target consumers will have a direct effect on marketing success. An example? Dubbing an ad with the voice of someone who is obviously not Hispanic. McDonald’s carefully inserts “Me encanta” into its mostly English advertisements as a Spanish-language version of its tagline, “I’m lovin’ it,” to really appeal to the Hispanic consumer.

Another generic example would be to include the phrase “Your abuela’s cooking” in any DR cookware ad to acknowledge the grandmother as an important cultural influence for many Hispanics. The idea of enculturation lies in the company’s appreciating the nuances of culture and values to build credibility.

Values are just as important as reviews to Hispanic consumers. As Hispanic people assimilate into American culture, marketing KPIs become a moving target. Building a brand strategy must recognize major differences between Hispanic and Anglo culture. An example isthe focus on a larger sense of familyversus individuality; music and appearance also tend to rank high interms of cultural value, while conceptsof comfort, convenience, and expediency are more influential on the Anglo side.

Hispanics overindex for purchasing products and services through TV,digital, and radio channels. Alternatively, Hispanics underindex for print tactics. Hispanics are also three times more likely to place orders through an English-language site, even when viewing an advertising asset in Spanish. The Hispanic consumer also appreciates the ability to speak directly to someone when ordering.

Regarding authenticity and credibility, 75 percent of U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish only or are bilingual. Even English-dominant Hispanics show significant interest in Spanish-language radio and television, and are more likely than their Anglo counterparts to watch or listen to entertainment with friends and family. Hence, the market has higher response rates and brand loyalty to companies and brands that engage them with messages that are in-language and in-culture—40 percent more likely, according to Simmons Research. Digital opportunities are just as important. Google partnered with Ipsos MediaCT recently to study how language and culture influence brand consideration, trends in mobile habits, and variables that impact purchasing decisions among U.S Hispanics. Studying more than 4,500 U.S. Hispanics ages 18 to 64, the research uncovered compelling new insights and best practices for this audience, including the fact hat 76 percent of Hispanics access the internet on mobile devices.

It is imperative to keeping enculturation in mind while marketing in places the Hispanic consumer goes. Building a brand has everything to do with the consumer journey, and you can maximize reach in every channel from e-commerce to telesales if you respect the customer’s culture.

Special thanks to Craig Handley, CEO

and one of the founders of ListenTrust,

and Denira Borrero, principal and COO

of OmniDirect, for information included

in this article.


Government Relations for Direct Response Marketing with a Republican Administration

in Fern Lee by on January 4th, 2017No Comments

Thank you, Bill McClennan, from ERA. The following is a great synopsis of what Direct Response Marketers should consider with the new administration:

The Ultimate Direct Response Cheat Sheet for the Trump Era

by Bill McClellan on Jan 4, 2017 9:00:00 AM ERSP, FTC, Government Relations

Donald Trump Image.pngHello 2017!

It’s nice to finally meet you after all the bumpy election action we saw last year. I am expecting 2017 to be “Yuge”!

No really, the Trump administration is just getting started with all its ideas and policies. In the signature words of our President Elect “we have to figure out what’s going on.”

In order to have a smooth transition through these changes, I have prepared this “beautiful” Direct Response cheat sheet just for you. As we now say in Washington, it’s “Bigly” (or “Big League” depending on whom you ask).

So 2017 let’s do this!

What’s next for Direct Response?

There is both danger and opportunity for Direct Response marketers with Republican’s controlling both the Presidency and Congress.

The first thing you should know is that there will be a general effort to roll back the excessive regulatory environment that developed during the Obama years. That’s good news for marketers. Expect some high level relief at both the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This pressure will come both internally from Trump administration appointees as well as from the Congressional oversight function.

That’s not to say that the industry should expect less enforcement action initially. For now that will still be in place. So you should continue to be vigilant about your claims and substantiation in 2017. Also you need to keep an eye on your business compliance and best practices in the year ahead.

The Republican stranglehold on power will also be “Yuge” for ERA’s self-regulation program ERSP. Industry self-regulation is a Republican favorite. As new problems arise in the marketplace expect Congress to turn to self-regulatory bodies for solutions rather than rely on new regulations or even new legislative fixes.

What about Operation Choke Point?

Operation Choke Point is an Obama administration program designed to attack the banking and payment processing relationships with high-risk merchants, including: “As Seen on TV,” Telemarketing, Sweepstakes, and Get Rich Products. The program was reported on in early 2013 with the Obama administration going after third-party payment processors. The chilling effects of the initiative have left marketers with less access to the financial services they need to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic marketplace.

I expect that regulatory action from Operation Choke Point to subside in the upcoming environment. It’s hard to imagine a lot of enforcement collaboration among agencies in the Trump administration.

Additionally, there should be renewed interest in H.R. 766 – the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act. It prohibits a federal banking agency from formally or informally requesting termination of banking activities for reputational risk alone. If signed into law, the government would no longer be able to target industries like ours for political reasons alone. This proposal previously passed the House of Representatives and its Senate companion is currently being championed by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The Dangers!

Online Sales Tax

Donald Trump has maintained an ongoing feud with the Washington Post and its owner Jeff Bezos. As you probably know, Jeff Bezos also happens to be the CEO for During their feud, Trump focused on the Online Sales Tax issue and for not paying sales tax in many jurisdictions. Therefore my outlook has turned negative for this issue during a Trump administration.

Marketers should continue to support House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s Online Sales Tax efforts. The Chairman’s draft would require remote sales tax to be collected based on the location of the seller, rather than on the location of the purchaser. Businesses would only have to comply with 1 set of rules, and the risk of intrusive audit and unending litigation would go way down. This is a much fairer and simpler approach than the alternatives pushed by big box retailers. Along with our allies in the TruST Coalition, ERA will continue our ongoing support of Representative Goodlatte’s efforts.

Net Neutrality

Long dormant, Net Neutrality presents another resurgent issue of concern. Trump has appointed two longtime adversaries of the policy to his transition team. The passage of the Open Internet Order in 2015 was the result of innumerable legal, legislative and regulatory battles over many years. The order classified internet providers as common carriers that fell under Title II of the Communications Act. This designation prohibits these businesses from discriminating against competitive offerings on their networks.

Trump’s pick for FCC chair will have the power to set policy and reverse this order. As Republicans will control both houses of Congress there will be no hope of legislative relief. ERA will continue its vigilance and work to ensure that you do not have to pay excessive access fees to reach your customer on the Internet Service Providers “pipes”.


Cybersecurity has consistently been a high priority for Donald Trump as well. It is clear that he will follow through with his campaign’s emphasis on this issue. We should expect the military cybersecurity debate to spill over into the civilian Privacy and Data Security conversation as well. Marketers should expect legislative activity and regulatory action at the FTC and other agencies on proposals that explore how firms deal with data breaches and theft of information.

The Unexpected

Early indicators suggest that the Trump administration will be less stable than those administrations that we have experienced in our lifetimes, both Republican and Democratic alike. There is a higher probability of a negative Trump “surprise” moving forward. Any excessive enthusiasm over the potential of relaxed regulatory oversight should be tempered accordingly.

Stay tuned. For better or worse 2017 is going to be very, very exciting.